Marriage does not always last a lifetime. Couples may find themselves searching for a way out when a partnership begins to break down. While making the decision to separate is almost always difficult, divorce is often the only practical solution.
However, every divorce is different, and what works for one family may not work for another.
The Three Different Types of Divorce in New York State
New York broadly recognizes three different types of divorce. They include the following:
An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which neither spouse seeks to challenge any aspect of the divorce agreement. Since uncontested divorces can be resolved without protracted litigation or repeated court appearances, they can help separating spouses save money.
However, not everyone is eligible for an uncontested divorce in New York. You must meet the following requirements to petition the court for an uncontested divorce:
- You must have a legally recognizable reason to seek a divorce.
- You must meet New York State’s residency requirements to qualify for an uncontested divorce.
- You must reach an agreement with your spouse on issues such as child custody, the division of jointly-owned assets, and alimony payments, if any.
A divorce is considered contested if the separating couple cannot negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement. Contested divorces are, in effect and practice, a form of litigation. While every contested divorce is different, most contested divorces follow these steps:
- One or both spouses file for divorce.
- The initiating spouse serves their partner with divorce papers.
- Before a preliminary hearing, the judge or a court clerk meets with both parties to understand their common goals and points of disagreement.
- During the preliminary hearing, the judge may direct the couple to resolve as many of their issues before trial as possible.
- If necessary, the court may order child support payments or alimony payments.
- Discovery is initiated, and a tentative trial date is scheduled.
Contested divorces can be arduous and time-consuming. However, most contested divorces never proceed all the way to trial and are instead settled through out-of-court negotiations.
Collaborative divorce is a recently-introduced alternative to a conventional contested divorce. During a collaborative divorce, spouses who cannot agree on every element of their legal separation work together to resolve their differences rather than take their case to court. A collaborative divorce could benefit couples who:
- Are still willing to talk through their differences.
- Hope to maintain a cordial or friendly relationship with their spouse after the divorce has been finalized.
- Wish to avoid protracted litigation.
Collaborative divorces tend to be resolved faster than contested divorces. However, collaborative divorces can present some disadvantages, especially in relationships where one partner wields disproportionate financial power.
Common Alternatives to Divorce
For most New Yorkers, marriage ends through either death or divorce. However, some couples may qualify for the following alternative procedures:
Legal separation is a divorce alternative in which each partner agrees to live separately but abide by certain, pre-determined rules. Separation does not end a marriage and could be an attractive solution to couples who:
- Do not know if they wish to divorce.
- Cannot afford to get divorced.
- Are dependent on their spouse’s health insurance or other benefits.
If a marriage fails, both parties may choose to live independently without initiating a formal divorce. However, simply living separate lives does not entitle either spouse to any significant benefits. A separation is only legal if it has been approved by the court.
An annulment, unlike a legal separation, formally ends a marriage. However, unlike a divorce or separation, an annulment is a court-ordered determination that the marital contract was never binding to begin with.
New York State permits annulment on the following grounds:
- One or both parties were under the age of 18 at the time of their marriage.
- One or both spouses were mentally incapacitated and unable to legally consent to the marriage.
- One or both spouses is incapable of consummating the marriage by having sexual intercourse.
- One or both spouses is incurably mentally ill for a period of five or more years.
- One or both spouses obtained consent for their marriage on fraudulent grounds.